- CBS is taking a walk into the Hannibal Lecter-adjacent universe with a new series, Clarice.
- Clarice follows FBI agent Clarice Starling, and is set a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs.
- Rebecca Breeds takes over the role that won Jodie Foster an Oscar for the 1991 film.
If you haven’t seen the commercials for Clarice, the new CBS series that serves as a sequel-of-sorts to beloved 1991 crime/thriller/mystery The Silence of the Lambs (one of the all time greatest serial killer movies and psychological horrors), well, you probably haven’t been watching all that much TV. The show comes at a time of both exponential TV—seriously, there are just so many shows—and a bit of dryness (because there is still a pandemic after all). Clarice also has one major hurdle to jump over: while it follows the journey of Clarice Starling, the lead character in Silence, it won’t be featuring the presence or even mention the name of that movie’s most famous character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
The role of Clarice—played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs—will now be played by Australian actress Rebecca Breeds, who will have to capture the same smarts that Foster did so well in the movie. Breeds is joined by a cast of familiar TV faces, including Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead) as a contentious superior, along with Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, House) and Nick Sandow (Orange Is The New Black) as members of the crew.
The show isn’t going to re-invent the wheel, but it’s aiming to flesh out a character that many haven’t heard from in nearly 30 years.
What is Clarice about?
If the commercials aren’t entirely clear, Clarice is a new thriller/drama series on CBS that follows FBI Agent Clarice Starling in the aftermath of the events of The Silence of the Lambs. Here, she’s still recovering and in therapy following the trauma of solving that case and saving Catherine Martin from the serial killer Buffalo Bill, and is transferred to a new unit.
The show follows a format familiar to anyone who’s seen a CBS drama before—there’s a ‘case of the week,’ whether that’s a series of connected people winding up dead, or an armed militia with weapons drawn, that gets resolved before the hour is up. There’s also a few overarching stories that will likely carry throughout the entire season.
Will Clarice connect to The Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal?
It absolutely will connect to The Silence of the Lambs and does so right from the outset. In fact, Clarice specifically feels connected to Jonathan Demme’s 1991 movie (as opposed to Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name), as many of Clarice’s memories of the Buffalo Bill stand-off are re-filmed scenes from the movie (and the song “Goodbye Horses” is heard playing, too). The imagery is also familiar throughout the series; the opening title sequence for Clarice, for one example, zooms in on a butterfly, an image fans of the film will certainly recognize.
The best part of the show comes with the plotline of Clarice dealing with her PTSD in the wake of the Bill case, even a year removed. The ‘case of the week’ aspect of the show feels like any other procedural drama, but the tie-in with Bill and Lambs are where the show really seems to show promise.
While some of the stylistic choices Clarice takes might seem similar, the show is not at all related or connected to Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, the cult favorite three season story of the titular cannibalistic doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) and FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) that aired for three seasons on NBC.
Is Hannibal Lecter in Clarice?
He isn’t. And, in fact, Clarice doesn’t even have the rights to say the character’s name. In the first episode, there’s a reference when Clarice is in therapy to her last psychiatrist eating his patients—we know who’s he’s talking about, but no name is mentioned. And the show moves on to other things from there. Clarice frequently hears about Buffalo Bill and thinks about him too, but no more about her formerly-incarcerated friend.
It’s an interesting conundrum to have, because, obviously, at the end of The Silence of the Lambs Dr. Lecter is at large, and you’d think that would basically be the only thing on the mind of Clarice or anyone who knows who she is; the Bill case was clearly a high profile situation, as she’s depicted to be the FBI’s most famous person, period.
But because of the way the rights break down, you can feel confident that Dr. Lecter (and Will Graham, for that matter) won’t be showing up. MGM owns the rights to all the characters specifically introduced in the movie, meaning mainly Clarice, Buffalo Bill, Catherine Martin, while the Dino De Laurentiis Company owns the rights to all the others, particularly the big names of Hannibal Lecter, Will Graham, and Jack Crawford.
So, while Clarice could certainly cover some interesting ground and have some stunning revelations over the course of its run, you can rest assured that a surprise appearance by Hannibal Lecter won’t be one of them.
Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
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